OMSA: Celebrating Student Achievement for 40 Years

During the 1981-82 academic year,  the newly established Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA) was created to provide proactive advising support, initiate programs and serve as a liaison with other departments and divisions of the university to enhance the environment in which minority students at Rochester live and learn.

In 1973, OMSA started a tradition of inviting the graduating seniors that they served along with their families to a dinner on commencement weekend to celebrate their achievements. This tradition has continued, growing each and every year to include more students and families, as well as the broader university community. It has become one of the highlights of the weekend for those involved and it embodies the university’s commitment to support and encourage an increasingly diverse campus community.

During the 2013 dinner, OMSA presented awards to the following seniors: Oladoyin Oladeru, The Francis Price Student Leadership Award; Maxine Humphrey, The Frederick Jefferson Award for Outstanding Student Achievement; Marius Kothor, The Olivia Hooker Academic Achievement Award; Ani Nguyen & Olufemi Watson, The Kesha Atkins Citation for Student Leadership; Adrian Elim, Edward Chafart Award for Civic Engagement. Additionally, the Family Pillar Award, which honors family members of a graduating senior, was given to Marius Kothor’s parents.

A new video shares the history of the OMSA and its senior awards dinner:

BSU Observes Black Solidarity Day

On Monday, Nov. 5, members of the Black Students’ Union observed Black Solidarity Day, highlighting the contributions and accomplishments made by the Black community. Formed in 1969 and observed nationally by African-Americans, Black Solidarity Day has expanded and is currently observed by other minority groups as well. Every year, it takes place the Monday before Election Day, and was originally meant to bring African-Americans together to discuss their political status in the country and the future of their race, as well as the value and aims of education within the Black community. “It is meant to be a time for everyone of all races and classes to take note of how we affect each other’s lives,” says Hillary Henderson ’14, BSU’s educational-political chairperson.

Black Solidarity Day also is intended to be a day of absence; those who observe it wear all black, and stay silent throughout the day. In some places, observers go as far as to not attend school or work and avoid spending money. This absence demonstrates the impact that African Americans have on the community. “At the University of Rochester, the Black Students’ Union aims to get as many people as possible to observe Black Solidarity Day to emphasize the impact that we have on this campus,” Henderson explains. “We encourage the students to wear all black and minimize speech as much as they can. We don’t suggest that anyone miss class or work, but to limit their participation to show the difference that our presence makes here.”

To mark this day in history, members of BSU met on the steps of Rush Rhees Library to take a picture in remembrance of how far students have come, and to recognize how far they will go, Henderson said. “In essence, Black Solidarity Day is about pride,” she explains. “It is meant to encourage minorities to be proud of who they are and realize that they make a difference in this country.”

Article written by Hillary Henderson, BSU, and Melissa Greco Lopes, Univ. Communications. Photo courtesy of Adam Fenster, University Photographer.